CAMP DODGE — Corporal Ralph L. Bennett of Ames is returning home more than 75 years after fighting the siege of Myitkyina, Burma during WWII.
Bennett was 22 years old when he served with the Headquarters Company, 209th Engineer Combat Battalion. He was last seen on June 13, 1944 partaking in the siege of Myitkyina, after they successfully took back an airfield west of Myitkyina from Japanese control. Bennett was reported killed in action (K.I.A) after the battle. Despite initial efforts, his remains were unable to be recovered.
The remains of fallen U.S. troops in the region were buried in at least eight different temporary cemeteries and numerous isolated burial locations, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). Eventually, all known burials were concentrated into the U.S. Military Cemetery at Myitkyina, then later disinterred and transferred to the U.S. Military Cemetery at Kalaikunda, India.
One set of remains, designated Unknown X-48 Kalaikunda, was reportedly disinterred in October 1947 and transferred to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where they were unable to be identified. They were subsequently buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, in March 1949.
Due to new historical investigations and new technology that could link an identification to Unknown X-48, the remains were disinterred in July 2018 by the DPAA. Dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence, were used in the identification of Bennett’s remains in 2018.
Bennett’s military awards and honors include the Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with one bronze service star), World War II Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, and Honorable Service Lapel Button – World War II.
A memorial service will be held at the Ames Municipal Cemetery, 2019 E. 9th St., Ames, Iowa on Saturday, August 3 at 11:00 a.m., with full military honors provided by the Iowa National Guard. The public is welcome to attend the memorial service.